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The rapid rise of DVD has changed the landscape of domestic movie viewing, with the proliferation of “special edition” DVDs offering audiences a wealth of “bonus” material.  Interviews, commentaries, documentaries about the production, gag reels and more all provide additional context for understanding the feature film itself.  Brookey and Westerfelhaus describe many of these features as blurring the line between “secondary texts” (like promotional material and interviews) and the primary text by manipulating the film itself in the bonus features, and simply by having everything on one disc.  Since it is all the same physical object, DVDs collapse these “promotional”-style elements into the product, assuring that it meets its target audience and increasing its rhetorical power.  The material also tends to fit with the auteurist ideology that Hollywood has embraced for commercial purposes, which gives a special authority to those involved in producing the film—typically directors and actors—in order to discuss the movies on talk shows or what have you.  On DVDs, these authorities more directly offer a preferred reading of the text, but the interactivity of the disc disguises the careful crafting of these meanings, allowing audiences to feel like they have “found” a special new insight. Brookey and Westerfelhaus  examine the Fight Club DVD, noting the significant ways in which the features work together to change the popular opinion of the film.  Jonathan Gray, drawing upon Brookey and Westerfelhaus, summarizes DVD bonus features’ function as offering “aura, author, [and] authenticity,” using Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD as an example.

I am going to draw upon these ideas about DVD features to examine the DVDs of Kevin Smith’s films.  Smith has been aggressive in his inclusion of bonus features, beginning before the DVD boom.  On the Mallrats DVD commentary, originally created for laserdisc, he famously says, “fuck DVD.”  He takes it back on the Dogma commentary, officially embracing the new format.  This is consistent with a more general trend of Smith as a sort of entrepreneurial self-promoter, capitalizing on his unique and loyal—if rather lowbrow—fan base (his Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic book store being an extreme example).  I will examine how DVDs for Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma construct Kevin Smith as an author and position a prototypical fan, and inform the meanings of the films themselves.  Ultimately I’d like to compare my conclusions in this analysis with the web-based promotion of Zach and Miri Make a Porno, his latest flick.  It seems like Smith has come full circle in the way he has expanded his bonus offerings that draw upon promotional-style material into a more developed form, which he then reconfigures for a more strictly promotional purpose later.

Here are some sources I’ve been looking at:

Brookey, Robert Alan and Rober Westerfelhaus.  “Hiding Homoeroticism in Plain View: The Fight Club DVD as Digital Closet.”  Critical Studies in Media Communication 2002 (19): 21-43.

Caldwell, John.  “Welcome to the Virtual Future of Cinema (Television).”  Cinema Journal 2005 (45): 90-97.

Gray, Jonathan.  Show Sold Separately.  Unpublished Manuscript, 2008.

Gray, Jonathan.  “The Extratextuals” blog. Access: http://www.extratextual.tv/

Parker, Deborah and Mark Parker.  “Directors and DVD Commentary: The Specifics of Intention.”  The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2004 (62): 13-22.

Taylor, Jim.  DVD Demystified.  New York: McGraw Hill Professional, 2001.

 

And I’ll use some websites:

DVD Review.  http://www.dvdreview.com/ 

Kevin Smith’s online presence:  http://www.viewaskew.com/main.html,  http://silentbobspeaks.com/,  http://www.zackandmiri.com/

 

One Response to “Narration Across Kevin Smith”

  1. Brett – this is a strong proposal, with a clear focus and effective research questions. I’d recommend diving into more research on authorship as a cultural construction – Foucault’s essay we read is a landmark that a number of scholars have built on. Exploring how DVD commentaries & other paratexts construct the Kevin Smith author function, and also how that frames how we consume his films, seems like a great avenue to pursue. Good luck!

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